The Pandemic Retreat
It's hard to believe it sometimes, but we will get through this time of forced solitude. It's certain. The pandemic, like all other pandemics, will pass into history. We will again be able to travel, eat in restaurants, gather with friends and family, and work in an office, even if hotspots of virus remain. When that time comes and we look back, what will we have learned from this year of isolation? Has 2020 been more than loneliness, cancelled plans, lost opportunities and fear? Unless we have been forced to struggle with survival, most of us have some positive experiences to remember from the COVID year.
Maybe we increased our exploration of meditation with more regular sitting practice. Or perhaps we've relished domesticity by cooking more, deep cleaning, planting a garden or watching birds. We may have taken daily walks, bike rides or hikes and gotten in better shape. Or perhaps we have read and thought more deeply about history or racial justice or inequality, increasing our awareness of our interconnectedness. Maybe we got inspired by delving into literature and poetry, taking up a musical instrument or learning to draw. We might have found more ways to volunteer in our community, even from home. Even if we've been tied to zoom meetings for work and children in online school, many of us have found ourselves appreciating the moment in countless ways. The daily death toll from the virus has made many of us more aware of our own mortality and of the precious lives of those we love. The pandemic, in addition to causing untold suffering and loss, has given many of us more of the silence, the solitude and the service so vital to our spiritual practice. Have you taken advantage of this gift? If not, it's not too late!
Before long the unique opportunity to retreat in a world quieter and more slowed down by the virus will come to an end. We will be thrust back into all the distractions of modernity where we can overlook our thirst for peace. I find myself grateful that we have yet more time of quarantine ahead. Yes, I wish I could spend Hanukah and Christmas with my children and grandchildren. But for now, the days of "nothing to do mind" fill me with wonder and teach me about myself and what I value. This is the longest, least organized retreat I've ever attended. Yet it has taught me the most so far. I want to dive deep for the duration.